Satisfying the Mobile Web User

More and more web visitors are using mobile devices to surf. If your website is not usable on tiny mobile screens, you are increasingly shutting out your visitors.

Usability guru Jakob Neilsen offers the following main guidelines for mobile-optimized websites based on usability testing of hundreds of sites:

  • Build a separate mobile-optimized site if you can afford it. When people access sites using mobile devices, their measured usability is much higher for mobile sites than for full sites.
  • If mobile users arrive at your full site’s URL, auto-redirect them to your mobile site.
  • Offer a clear link from your full site to your mobile site for users who end up at the full site despite the redirect.
  • Offer a clear link from your mobile site to your full site for  users who need special features that are found only on the full site.

The full report offers more details.

A separate mobile site is not the only option. however. There is a growing adoption of “responsive web design” where a site is developed to present and position elements differently based on small, medium and large screens. This approach creates one site with different renderings for users on mobile, tablet and desktop devices.

It is not clear that this approach takes less time or effort than the separate site recommend by Neilsen, as every stage of the development needs to define the behaviors of the three options.

Please share your preference and examples of what you have done to satisfy the needs of the mobile user.